5 Special Thai Isaan Cuisines to Try in Northeast Thailand (อาหารอีสานไทย)
Isan, also written as Isaan, Isarn, Issan, Esan, or Esarn is the north-eastern region of Thailand which is the largest region located on Khorat Plateau and surrounded by Mekong River (along the border with Laos) to the north and east, by Cambodia to the southeast and the Prachinburi mountains south of Nakhon Ratchasima.
The region is home to approx 21 million Thais and is apparently admired globally for its scrumptious cuisine. Since Isaan culture is traditionally alluring, food remains to be the core part of family and other social gathering and the beauty of its lip-smacking taste goes beyond the boundaries. For the natives of this place, meals are often leisurely periods of time to take pleasure in having Isan Thai Cuisine with its array of dishes.
Here is a guide to some exciting dishes of Northeast Thailand which are often served in authentic Thai restaurants to delight visitors and food lovers.
Thai Hot Pot (Jim Jum,จิ้มจุ่ม)
Originated from Isan region, Thai Hot Pot or Jim Jum is a fiery Thai interpretation of the famous Chinese hot pot which is a preparation of various Thai infused broth of shallot, Lemongrass, Chilli, Garlic and Sweet Basil. You can make further changes according to your taste. On Thai restaurant tables, it’s cooked up on hot pots. It could be prepared with meats, vegetables noodles or more to tickle your fancy. Once cooked perfectly, the Jim Jim or Hot Pot is served beautifully with small soup bowls and made with sour, hot and tangy chilli sauce.
Isan Sticky Rice Basket
There are oodles of outstanding dishes developed by Isan that have earned immense fame across the world. Among them, sticky rice is the most common part of every serving that teams up with the multitude of Thai Isaan foods or cuisines. They are characterized by the fiery chillies, strong fish sauces, sour bites and some palatable saucy mixtures. The super-starchy staple is often offered in small, individual baskets. Diners usually take a piece of sticky rice with their fingers and use it in lieu of silverware to snap up chunks of whatever’s served on the table.
Somewhat similar to Nam Phrik, Larb is minced-meat-and-herb salad which is a famous family food in the northeast of Thailand. Larb duck or Larb pet Isaan is the most authentic food of Isaan which contains the powder of toasted rice and tastes funky and fiery from the addition of fermented fish sauce and whole dried chiles. You can also try different versions of Larb prepared with other meats.
Som Tam (Thai Papaya Salad)
Som Tam, also called Thai Papaya Salad, originates from Isaan and is now served in many reputed restaurants across Thailand. Its demand rules the foodies’ menu card in all senses. It’s the regions most sought after dish.
You May Also Like : Thai Green Papaya Salad with Shrimp Recipe
If you are a hardcore non-vegetarian, Laap should your first choice while visiting Isaan. It’s an exotic blend of green and red chillies mixed together with fish sauce and meat along with onions and herbs which is typically eaten with sticky rice. It’s the most famous Isan Thai Cuisine that is traditionally eaten by Isan people with their hands, taking small balls of the sticky rice and tumbling them into the Laap, before eating them.
Apart from that, there are various other mouthwatering Thai Isaan cuisines that one might come across during a visit to Northeast Thailand. Before you head over, make a list of these widely sought after dishes and have them on your table.